RALEIGH, N.C. – Hospitals across the Triangle are looking for hundreds of nurses to fill vacancies amid an ongoing shortage and increased COVID-19 cases.

Duke Health is recruiting right now for around 700 nursing positions to accommodate expansions and anticipated turnover.

Meanwhile, UNC Health says they’re looking for more than 800 nurses as demand skyrockets.

“Within our health care system, all of our hospitals, it’s probably our number one topic of conversation,” UNC chief nurse executive Cathy Madigan said.

It’s a top concern for major and small hospitals alike, making sure they have the nursing staff to care for even more returning patients in need.

Many patients may have been deterred to come to hospitals this time last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would have to say that seems to be something that people have gotten over because most of our hospitals now are very busy, so you’ve got the COVID population but you also have the non-COVID population,” Madigan said.

To care for everyone, Dennis Taylor, president of the North Carolina Nurses Association, said nurses are stretched thin in health systems across the state, often working more cases than average.

“Instead of having the patients that we are typically accustomed to taking care of in one area, we now have to go to lots of different areas and see those patients,” Taylor said.

To bring nurses in and keep staff, UNC Hospitals in the Triangle just gave $3 raises.

They’re also offering up to $25,000 in loan forgiveness and up to $10,000 for relocation.

“I like to feel like we have a playbook that we use within our system and different places can use different pieces depending on what they need,” Madigan said.

But as for a long-term fix, Taylor said it will have to come from universities to recruit teachers and students to build up the next generation of nurses.

“Many schools are not even filling the numbers that they’re approved to have in their system because they don’t have the instructors there to be able to teach the students,” Taylor said.